U.S. Intervention Extends Tragedies
by Connor Richards
While at the Fort Myer military base in Arlington, Virginia, in August, President Donald Trump announced changes to the United States’ military strategy in Afghanistan. The plan he announced is not promising for anyone hopeful of the U.S. ending the 17-year military effort, the longest ongoing war in American history.
“In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear,” President Trump said. “We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America, and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us or anywhere in the world for that matter.”
Although the president shied away from specifics, he made it clear that his administration’s plan could not be described as a defensive effort.
“America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out,” Trump said. “I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.”
The president cited the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as being the impetus for keeping troops in Afghanistan, arguing that boots on the ground are essential for maintaining safety and security in the U.S. and abroad.
“9/11, the worst attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists,” Trump said. “A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al-Qaida, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11.”
Indeed, memories of 9/11 foster feelings of pain and sadness. Sixteen years ago a series of carefully orchestrated attacks left 2,977 innocent civilians dead. The damage of the attacks did not end with these numbers; the devastating effects of 9/11 are still felt today.
On Sept. 4, Michael O’Hanlon, a 30-year veteran of the New York fire department who sifted through the twin towers’ dusty remnants in the weeks following their ruination, passed away after a long struggle with stomach and esophageal cancer. If the word “hero” were ever appropriately used, it would be to describe O’Hanlon.
The costs of 9/11keep adding up. The subsequent invasion of Iraq left 4,486 U.S. soldiers — women and men willing to leave their families and lives behind them — dead. In Afghanistan the number is 2,345 and, in light of the Trump administration’s new foreign policy, that number can be expected to grow.
This is only one side of the story. Airwars, a “journalist-led transparency project” that monitors civilian fatalities, wrote that airstrikes in countries like Syria and Iraq have killed between 4,272 and 6,534 civilians. The project further notes that at least 1,094 of these were children and 649 were women. Though these numbers are alarming, they are not the full picture. In the wake of the leak of the Iraq War Logs, it was revealed that civilian deaths made up 109,000 total deaths in Iraq recorded by the United States Army.
Damage has also been done in less readily quantifiable measures. The leaked photos of soldiers and high-command officers torturing, humiliating and dehumanizing prisoners at Abu Ghraib, many of whom were later found to be innocent, reveal the reality that some things are more shocking than death.
The hunger strikes at Guantanamo Bay, where hundreds of prisoners are being held indefinitely without hope of a fair trial, are a stark reminder of the level of suffering minds and bodies can bear without breaking. The fact that GTMO remains open to this day is as appalling as the original events of 9/11 themselves.
It is easy and even comforting to think of the U.S. as an unmoving force for good in a world haunted by evil exterior forces. These forces undoubtedly exist, and the massive threat posed by ISIS needs to be strategically and thoroughly addressed by the international community. However, to ignore the harm caused by U.S. military intervention, whether in Central America, Southeast Asia or the Middle East, is to be complicit in allowing injustice and atrocity to occur unchecked. To honor the innocent and precious lives lost on the never-forgotten day of Sept. 11, 2001, we should put ourselves in the positions of children, women and men in countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
American Intervention is Justified
by Nicholas Coleman
During periods of crisis, Americans with leftist ideologies exist in utopia. Rather than enforcing hard power hegemony, these individuals denounce the United States’ intervention within hostile regions. President Barack Obama readily accepted these premises, withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan. Although liberal politicians lauded his decision, al-Qaida and Taliban extremists have made resurgences.
The issue for liberals is that the fair, peaceful world they desire is out of reach without using American military forces to intervene internationally.
The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a clear demonstration of an ineffective U.S. intervention. Mistaken information lead to strategic error, and the nation is still recovering. While Iraq demonstrates the U.S. foreign policy has gone awry, the Syrian conflict — almost entirely the result of U.S. indifference — is its counterpart. Syrian civil war began because Democratic politicians chose to remain neutral, they were complacent.
Leftists believe there is something intrinsically wrong with the use of military force. Whenever the U.S. invades a region, it is somehow a misstep. The only responsibility leftists believe the U.S. holds is denouncing violence verbally, rather than strategically terminating conflicts.
Avoiding military intervention is only a theoretically plausible narrative. Keeping American resources disentangled from war is notable, but liberal politicians rarely consider the implications. These individuals address the issue by reframing conservatives as insensitive barbarians who lust for blood. Yet if military interventions were purely a matter of preserving lives, Russian or Syrian interactions are considerably much worse.
Following leftist reasoning, one concludes all uses of American force are inherently immoral — that our military capacity is entirely ineffective. This is clearly not the case as the genocides in Kosovo and Bosnia exemplify . Without U.S. led interventions, millions of lives would have been lost. Similar to the Syrian conflict, Americans failed to act in Rwanda, and civilians were slaughtered in the streets. Innocent casualties associated with U.S. drone strikes, while distressing, are less dubious than the attacks on civilians made by Russian forces. Unfortunately for liberals, no reality exists where other nations will take the initiative to stop terror.
Nor will this fictional reality exist in the foreseeable future.
In the Middle East, military involvement in Egypt, Syria and Jordan was avoided. Informed advisors chose to leverage diplomatic and economic assets, thereby demonstrating the flexibility U.S. officials retain. Although the pursuit of global stability through confrontation needs evaluation, the U.S. is the only actor capable of deploying overwhelming resources to stifle opposition. Whether diplomatic, economic, logistical or militaristic, U.S. intervention is varied. To maintain the respect of international actors, the strategic deployment of military assets is crucial.
Situations that necessitate military intervention are those which pose a severe threat to our homeland security and outlying economic interests. Nations such as Pakistan — which provides a haven to radical extremists — disrupt the global order, and mortality rates among innocents in these regions rise commensurately. Protecting our access to natural resources is vital, justifying actions taken against terrorists in the Persian Gulf and the Horn of Africa. Whenever a dictator poses little threat to American hegemony, such as Muhammad Gaddafi, their reign is best ended by locals. Either way, there is no denying the U.S. must respond decisively.
Morally, no individual should suffer under the rule of ISIS, al-Qaida or the Taliban. Allowing an Islamic extremist state to exist within the Middle East does not suggest a more secure world. While opting for military interventions should not be the standard U.S. measure, countries such as Turkey or Saudi Arabia cannot be expected to independently confront ISIS without the U.S.
The U.S. has not always reacted proportionally to a threat, such as the Iraq invasion, although, limiting ourselves to zero intervention wrongly assumes we can afford to remain neutral during periods of foreign crisis. Neutrality is complacency, and leftist ideologies falsely assume oppressed individuals can find refuge without the U.S. Imagine if the U.S. announced it would no longer use military force abroad. Many liberals would support this decision, but a world without injustice and bloodshed is simply impossible without American hegemony. While military interventions should be the last resort, one cannot deny U.S. presence achieves a greater moral end.